The Olympic Road Race route has been part of much debate since the course was announced early in 2011. The main focus of the media has been around Box Hill, with Mark Cavendish shedding several pounds to ensure that he can keep up with the pace of the peloton as the gradient starts to rise. But the nine ascents of Surrey hill aren’t the only aspect of the race that could influence the result.
The course starts and finishes in London. The Mall will be packed to the rafters as the riders head out along the King’s Road, crossing Putney Bridge and then on through Richmond. This will be the time that the smaller nations make a break. Teams are allocated places based on points with a team allowed a maximum of five riders. Countries like Australia, Britain, Italy and Spain all have the maximum allocation of riders. However, for the smaller countries that have less riders at an elite level, the number of riders in these team may be only one or two. With no race radios in this event an early break could be more affective than we see on the ProTour circuit, however, it is more than likely to be caught by the peloton within 20km of the finish.
A key area is 40km into the race as the road narrows significantly. A crash at this point could split the field and some of the bigger teams will want to push to the front to ensure this doesn’t happen.
The box Hill circuit will be ridden nine times in total, with the possibility of riders lapping stragglers. Back in 2010 at the Geelong worlds, the gap between the break and the peloton reached a hefty 23’30” on the circuit with the team cars being forced to drop back behind the breakaway. If this happens, a puncture could be very costly. Narrow roads have meant spectators are unable to line the roads as seen in the Tour, but expect to see large crowds at specified spectator points cheering the riders on. With the peloton looking to climb Box Hill at around 30kph, there are sure to be some very tired legs after the 9 laps. For those looking to attack at the bottom of the last lap, the distance of 55km to the finish may make them think otherwise.
From the small, narrow roads of the Surrey country side, the peloton will once again hit the wide streets of London before embarking on what looks to be a sprint finish down the Mall.
With the race almost upon us, what are your predictions? Can Team GB pull Cav over Box Hill and set him up for a sprint finish? Or will it be a smaller country looking to cause an upset that take the spoils? Are you off to catch some of the action? As usual let us know in the comments section below.